Washington Chorus opens season, pays tribute to Leonard Bernstein


Under Washington Chorus music director Julian Wachner, the choristers displayed rhythmic precision and hushed timbres in colorful interpretations. (Margot Schulman)
November 19, 2012

For its season opener, the Washington Chorus paid tribute to Leonard Bernstein with a thoughtful program stuffed with some of the American composer’s best-known works Sunday afternoon at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

From sacred music to film scores to Broadway musicals, there was a little something for everyone to enjoy throughout the performance, part of the chorus’ “Essential” concert series. But the crowd pleaser arrived during selections from Bernstein’s operetta, “Candide,” featuring guest soloist Marie-Eve Munger in an expressive rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay.” The Canadian soprano’s honeyed voice soared through the aria’s coloratura so fluidly and humorously that she stole the show as the lamenting and coy Cunegonde.

Munger also turned in a winsome performance as Maria in selections from “West Side Story,” singing “Somewhere,” “I Feel Pretty” and, finally, “Tonight,” opposite tenor Vale Rideout, whose muscular voice supported the duet with warmth and feeling. Washington Chorus alto Pamela Terry captured the spunky spirit of Anita in “America,” singing delightful exchanges with the female choristers.

Under music director Julian Wachner, the chorus rang out a cappella in the Latin choruses from “The Lark,” featuring countertenor John Bradford Bohl, who is also the group’s assistant conductor. In “Chichester Psalms,” the choristers displayed rhythmic precision and hushed timbres in a colorful interpretation that showcased soprano Esther Ullberg, a junior chorus member.

With a number of National Symphony Orchestra members, the orchestra proved a solid partner for the chorus and excelled in the Symphonic Suite from the film “On the Waterfront.”

Jean is a freelance writer.

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